Daily Archives: October 22, 2011

Occupy Wall St. Poetry Update

My name is Stephen Boyer! I’m a librarian at the People’s Library, I moved in full-time a couple weeks ago. I’ve been insanely busy getting the Occupy Wall St. Poetry Anthology off the ground and the WiFi here has been down, but now the WiFi is up and the anthology has reached a stable place so hopefully I’ll be able to start updating the blog regularly to fill in the readership as to the going-ons of what I’m doing at The People’s Library.

The OWS Poetry Anthology is currently only available at The People’s Library. Eventually it’ll be mass produced and probably online but for now I feel it’s imperative that it lives solely in the library. This way it maintains a power and an aura that will be lost once it is more widely available. And the feedback has been immense! If you haven’t had the chance to come down and read it, just imagine reading pages and pages and pages of voices of dissent as thousands occupy the space surrounding you. The anthology was born out of the poetry assembly. Every Friday night around 9:30pm poets of all walks of life and ages come in and read/perform their poetry. Folks that have been around the NYC poetry scene for a long time have been saying the poetry assembly is one of the greatest open mic reading series NYC has ever fostered and NYC has a great legacy of poetry. With that validation, I highly suggest you join us. Poetry illuminates the soul of Occupy Wall St. A lot of people are asking, “What are the demands” and the poets voices show just how nuanced the human spirit and impossible a set of demands truly is. This occupation is about transforming consciousness and the poetry community is a major part of that process. So please join us!

The anthology is open to all people and all poems. Obviously there are a lot of political poems landing in the anthology but its imperative we include all aspects of the human experience. Famous poets have included their work (Anne Waldman, Adrienne Rich, Michael McClure, and more), the Allen Ginsberg Society has sent us a poem on behalf of Allen, children have included their work, people of all walks of life have included your work. Again, all work is accepted and you can send your own poems to STEPHENJBOYER@GMAIL dot COM. Please include “Occupy Poetry” in the subject as my inbox has been flooded! But I love it! I want the anthology to get so large that it fills the entirety of Wall St.

Besides living in the library I’ve also helped start the Queer Caucus and I also blog at minorprogression where you can learn a lot more about me.

Here’s video of the Poetry Assembly:

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Filed under Announcements, OccupyLibraries, Poetry, Stephen, Video

10/22/11 Meeting Minutes

Following are the meeting minutes for the October 22nd Library Working Group Meeting. The agenda items are listed first, and the minutes are after the fold (click “continue reading” to see the minutes in full).

  1. Finances, expenditures, and internal procedures regarding money, Up/Down vote on joining with GA finances (per consensus to do this at last meeting) (with GUEST from Finance)
  2. On site electricity (partly a matter of item 1, so it will depend how the procedures issue is settled—Eric is invited to comment on how he wants this phrased)
  3. Town Planning and the Library (with GUEST from Town Planning)
  4. Guest speakers in the library (this is my thing, which I’d love to discuss, but I can table it if more important matters come to the fore)
  5. Weather preparedness/library structures (possibly related to item 3)
  6. Spokes Council and how it affects the library (please read the proposal in advance at http://www.nycga.net/spokes-council/) (with GUEST from Structure)
  7. Occupy Wall Street Library at ALA Midwinter in Dallas January 21, 2012: who’s going, where’s the money coming from, our goals while there
  8. Internet issues, the nycga site and Library, the Internet Working Group possibly hosting our site
  9. Thaddeus and our policy on leaflets, zines, fliers, handouts, photocopied articles, and other forms of loose paper
  10. Silent reading technology

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Filed under Meeting Minutes, Michael, Process, Working Group Meeting

“Information is Liberation”: A People’s Librarian’s Thoughts on the Library at #OWS

In the midst of the singing, the chanting, the debating of Liberty Plaza, a library has bloomed.

Stocked with donations and staffed by volunteers, it sits ready and waiting to offer the printed word to all who can read.

Occupy Wall Street is a true grassroots uprising.  Liberty Plaza and the occupations in other cities are places to begin healing our profoundly sick and downright broken society.  They are places to speak truth to power and to each other.  Most importantly, the occupations are places to will and to work our alternative vision into being.

To reimagine who we are, to understand who have become, is a group activity.  It requires public truth-telling and personal reflection.  For this to be a fair process, a just process, an inclusive process, we need to ensure that each and every citizen has access to that discussion and the facts that inform it.   That’s why there is a library at OWS.

Libraries serve as an equalizer, reducing information-asymmetry so that all citizens can debate on a level playing field.  They offer access to all ideas not because all ideas are equally good or true, but because all ideas deserve their chance to be heard and because nothing becomes more enticing than an idea censored or hidden.

“Information is liberation” is a truth that can be hard to grasp from a position of privilege.   If you work for a university or live in a large city with a strong library system, information is like oxygen: always there, always (apparently) free.  For the many millions who don’t work for a university and who don’t live in a large city with a well funded public library, information is scarce and often expensive.

It should go without saying, but we cannot be free as a people if we do not all have access to high quality information, including information that comes through stories and poetry.  Without information and stories we can’t examine narratives put forth by the powerful and judge them from a position of information-equality.  A prominent librarian said in a recent op-ed decrying cuts to public library budgets, “The next Abraham Lincoln could be sitting in their library, teaching himself all he needs to know to save the country. “  Of course, he could be, but it reveals just how far our national discourse has degraded that she felt the need to invoke Abraham Lincoln.  Even if there is no Lincoln in her library, or in any other, even if her only readers are the humblest citizens among us, a free and just society still requires a library.

Like in the middle-ages when priests controlled society by interpreting the Bible, so today the corporate power structure controls us by controlling what we know.  They highlight the facts they wish us to understand, they downplay and ignore the stories they wish to obscure.   Objective data and peer reviewed analysis is barricaded behind expensive pay walls and the public’s access to this knowledge is endangered through severe cuts in funding for public and even academic libraries.

Healing ourselves, redeeming our politics and our culture, requires a new understanding of who we have become as a people.  It requires a reimagining of what it means to be an American, how we treat one another, and how we behave in the world.  Democracy is only possible if we have political equality and political equality is only possible when each and every citizen has both a strong education and ongoing access to the stream of scholarly and cultural conversation.

Libraries are more important than ever in these times.  They guard the right of the public to know and to seek answers, they provide all citizens with access to facts, to the cultural narratives that aren’t approved by the dominant power structure, and most of all they contribute to the creation of political equality between citizens by reducing the impacts of economic inequality.

The People’s Library at OWS, and all of the other occupation libraries,  are an expression of these roles.  They stand in the midst of the protest as a living embodiment of the vision of a just and democratic society we all hold so dearly.  The creation of the libraries is an act of protest that says, “We are all one and together we will build the society we have all imagined.”

Cross posted to Daily Kos.

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Filed under Mandy, OccupyLibraries, Radical Reference

“. . . and Beyond”

I’m thrilled that the New York Times covered the opening of #OccupyBoston’s library. It’s an important story, worth being written about – in fact we wrote about it back when it happened. What I can’t figure out is how the New York Times has managed to do such an amazing job of dismissing the occupation of Liberty Plaza right here in their own back yard?

From the start, their first coverage of #OccupyWallStreet was dismissive, historically ignorant, shallow, pompous and to borrow a phrase from the Portland Mercury describing the same writers’ work on another story: “awesomely out-of-touch.”

And now, they have actually printed a claim that our library is disorganized. We stand in complete solidarity with #OccupyBoston and their library, we love them – they’re family. But that claim is just silly, and the Times has a responsibility to look into claims like that and offer their own reporting before they print misinformation. Here are some facts to help them out.

Here at The People’s Library, we have over 2,000 books. The majority of which are out in the stacks. And all of them are organized by categories such as: Labor, Finance, International Relations, Anthropology, Political Science, Philosophy, Economics, Human Rights, Activism, Religion, Queer Theory, Graphic Novels, Children’s, CDs/DVDs, Anarchist Zines, and more.

Some books are still in our storage unit awaiting the intake process, as we’re receiving donations from individuals and massive shipments from publishers all over the country. Yes intake process. This is because we have an online catalog, and we scan the barcodes of every book we receive, or add the ISBN to a list, or photograph the cover and enter them into a database to produce a historical record of what we’ve been given. That incoming list runs as a feed on our blog, on the sidebar.

We also photograph and document all books donated by authors and their families, and photograph the inscriptions along with images of the daily life of the library, which we upload here. We have reached out to the libraries forming around the country at other occupation sites and have even sent boxes of books to several to help them build their collections.

Since the early days we’ve been setting aside one copy of every zine, pamphlet or artist’s-style edition we receive for archiving – and we’re continuing to host collection boxes for the broader #OccupyWallStreet archives project. We host the Occupy Wall Street Poetry group, and our staff are publishing anthologies of their poetry. Now, we have had to struggle with two impedements to structural development, the NYPD says we aren’t allowed to have “tents” or “structures” so we’ve improvised, and it’s pretty clear our hardworking volunteers have done a damn fine job.

Our work at the library has been covered by American Libraries (the Magazine of the ALA), School Library Journal, the London Review of Books,The Chronicle of Higher Education, and many mainstream media outlets, blogs and sites including local papers like the New York Daily News.

We have a reference desk, and laptops and wireless internet for patrons and we’re expanding every day. We host author readings regularly, and if you come browse our stacks there’s a good chance you’ll run into one of them. But somehow, the New York Times didn’t notice – and our hometown paper went all the way to Boston instead for a story about OccupyLibraries. Maybe they still feel guilty about dismissing the movement and failing to cover it for weeks, and were too ashamed to come by. That’s understandable. So now I just want to say: New York Times, it’s OK, we can forgive you.

Here are driving directions, but I suggest you take the A,C,E from Port Authority or the 1,2,3 from Times Square. Come on down to the “beyond” sometime and say hi. I think you’ll like us.

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Filed under #OccupyBoston, Announcements, Media, Michael, Solidarity